Valentine’s Day is greatly loved by many (me!), but loathed by others equally. Regardless of their opinion on the holiday, everyone can admit that they have a soft spot for a good romance movie. Whether you’re going out with your significant other or planning a night in with some mochi ice cream, check out these must-see romantic movies.
Set It Up
Who knew that Netflix could make a quality romance movie? Starring Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell, Set It Up reminds us that love can be found everywhere, even between assistants who are trying to set up their two uppity bosses. Deutch, a kind-of-awkward, but kind-of-not aspiring journalist, and Powell, a future venture capitalist with a dry sense of humor, are polar opposites, but as romcom aficionados know – that’s where the magic happens.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Classics are not to be messed with and Breakfast at Tiffany’s is no exception. From Audrey Hepburn hopping out of a cab in the iconic Givenchy dress to her and George Peppard’s tense exchange, this film is more than just a romantic tale of a New York City socialite and a writer who’s captivated by her. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a perceptive look into the glitz and glamor of 1940s Manhattan and how quickly it fades for its biggest characters. While this romantic comedy is a gem in American cinema, it is not without its flaws (see: Mickey Rooney’s racist portrayal).
Playing It Cool
In my mind, Chris Evans can do no wrong. He proves this as the main character in Playing It Cool, a romantic comedy that follows the warming of a heart that is cold to love. Evans plays a screenwriter who is pushed by his agent to write a romcom, but he does not believe in love. This is quickly turned around when he meets a mysterious woman, played by Michelle Monaghan, and falls in love with her, only to find out that she is already engaged. The script lacks a little pizzazz, but Evans and Monaghan’s chemistry is too good to ignore.
Big Eden mixes romance, comedy, drama, and LGBTQ+ culture all into the fictional town of Big Eden, Montana. The film stars Arye Gross as a successful gay artist from New York City who returns to his hometown of Big Eden to care for his ailing grandfather, garnering the attention of his childhood crush and former best friend (Tim DeKay) and the shy Native American owner (Eric Schweig) of the town’s general store. Filmed in picturesque Montana, Big Eden is a crafted LGBTQ+ film that is refreshingly devoid of homophobic content while dealing with pressures against LGBTQ+ relationships.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…
If you were born in the West and are of South Asian descent, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sorrow) undeniably impacted your life (sorry, I don’t make the rules). Across many years and two continents, this romantic drama tells the story of an Indian family that becomes divided over their adopted son’s (Shah Rukh Khan) marriage to a girl belonging to a lower socio-economic group (Kajol). This Karan Johar-directed film sets the bar for 2000s Bollywood with its star-studded cast, memorable music, and heartwarming romances (both old and new). Even when I am old and gray, I will continue to live vicariously through the fashionable Pooja (Kareena Kapoor).
The Prince & Me
No Valentine’s Day movie list is complete without a royal romance. The Prince & Me stars Julia Stiles as a devoted pre-med student at the University of Wisconsin, who is relentlessly pursued by the playboy prince of Denmark (Luke Mably). The growing connection between Stiles and Mably is heartwarming and a testament to the trusty romcom formula. Stiles’ dedication to her future as a doctor and her luck at romance (a PRINCE, for God’s sakes) makes me wish that I was still a pre-med student – sometimes.
The romantic film formula is always comforting, but seldom does it connect with the realities of its viewers. Love Jones makes a concerted effort to connect with viewers through the struggling romance between a suave poet (Larenz Tate) and a gifted photographer (Nia Long). The film has no shortage of sweet, romantic moments, which are accentuated by Long’s and Tate’s expressive acting. Love Jones reminds us that while love is a beautiful gift, it is not as intuitive as fairytales lead us to believe.
Following two childhood friends (Ignacio Rogers, Esteban Masturini) who reconnect years after their first romantic experience, Esteros outlines the tense intricacies of exploring LGBTQ+ relationships. Rogers, playing the resistant Matias, is drawn to Masturini, playing the openly gay, bohemian Jeronimo, but he fumbles in coming to terms with his attraction under social scrutiny. Set against the lush Argentinian countryside, Esteros calls to a love that is familiar to all of us, but experienced by few.
With a budget of $10.3 million, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, a retelling of the classic novel of the same name by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, set a new standard for Indian filmmaking. Devdas follows the heartbreaking story of the titular character, a wealthy law graduate (Shah Rukh Khan), who is forcibly separated from his childhood sweetheart (Aishwarya Rai). This makes him spiral out of control and into the comforting arms of a courtesan (Madhuri Dixit). This critically acclaimed romance mesmerizes its viewers with a beautiful depiction of India in the early 1900s, fit with enchanting musical numbers and stellar acting.
Julia Roberts shows the girls how a romantic comedy is done in Pretty Woman. Roberts steals the scene as a free-spirited Hollywood sex worker, who finds herself in a lucrative partnership with a wealthy businessman (Richard Gere). Over the course of the film, both characters fall in love, but are held back by their personal reservations and social statuses. Gere and Robert’s chemistry is undeniable, adding a special touch to the witty screenplay. Their heartwarming romance breaks all societal barriers and fuels the fires in hopeless romantics around the world.